We celebrate the memorial of Saint Francis Xavier as a feast today, because he is the patron saint of the Diocese of Joliet. Francis Xavier was a sixteenth century man who had a promising career in academics. He was encouraged in the faith by his good friend, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, and went to join the new community founded by Ignatius, the Society of Jesus, better known today as the Jesuits.
Francis had a passion for preaching the Gospel and living a life of Gospel simplicity. He would live with and among the poorest of the poor, sharing their living conditions, ministering to the sick, and preaching and teaching the faith. In fact, we might say that he reminds us of a current Jesuit, Pope Francis! Saint Francis Xavier lived in the East Indies for a time, before going on to minister to the Hindus, Malaysians, and Japanese. He even learned a bit of Japanese in order to communicate well with his people and to preach to them. He dreamed of going on to minister in China, but died before he could get there.
Francis Xavier truly took to heart the words of Saint Paul who said he made himself all things to all people in order to save at least some. He made it his life’s work to live as his people lived, preaching to simple folk, and calling them to Jesus. He was also able to live freely Jesus’ Gospel call today: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”
That same Gospel call is the inspiration of our diocese’s current focus on missionary discipleship. This year, Bishop Conlon wrote to us in his pastoral letter, “’Go,’ He Said” that missionary discipleship needs to be the priority for the Church and her members in order to bring the Gospel to “every creature.”
In that letter, Bishop tells us what this means for us: “Discipleship begins when you sense that Jesus Christ loves you and is calling you to follow Him. You are a disciple if you, in turn, acknowledge that He really is the Son of God and the true source of your life here and for eternity, that you love Him more than anyone else, that you want to form your daily life and its decisions around Him, and that you want to talk about Him with others.”
So we might not have the opportunity to live as Francis Xavier did and to actually go out to distant shores to preach the Gospel. But we certainly are still called to preach it with our lives. We are called to witness to Christ to everyone we meet: family, friends, coworkers, neighbors-anyone the Lord puts in our path. Our diocese chose Francis Xavier for our patron because our founders took seriously the call to proclaim the Gospel to every person in this diocese. We are called upon to do the same, according to our own life’s vocation and state of life. May all who hear our words and see our actions come to believe and be saved.